This "Religion" Thing
Scripps-Howard News Service 10.16.01
First things first. Let us get the myth about "separation
of church and state" out of the way. A thousand dollars in
cash to anyone who can find such a provision in the U.S. Constitution.
Two thousand dollars to anyone who can establish a rational connection
between "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," and
ACLU's assertion that writing "God bless America" on a
high school marquee is unconstitutional.
Then there is the Madison County School Board in Wisconsin, prohibiting
the Pledge of Allegiance, and permitting only the national anthem
- albeit without text - as the "least intrusive and least offensive"
option available under the law.
The problem with the Pledge, apparently, is the phrase "[one
nation] under God," and its potential to offend those who believe
in different gods, several gods, or no god at all. In recent times,
the exercise of bending over backwards not to offend has squeezed
rational considerations out of existence.
Perhaps the terrible wake-up call of September 11 will restore
our memory of some essential truths, suppressed by the campaign
- launched during the 1960s - to alter this country beyond recognition.
One has to do with the reasons for America's success, the other
with the implied contract under which newcomers used to be admitted.
Suggestions that America was created as a Christian country elicit
howls of protest in our time. Yet even such an assumption is too
broad. A special brand of Protestants, imbued with the early settlers'
thirst for religious freedom, gave rise to the unprecedented, unparalleled
squaring of the circle: a deeply religious people with an unfailingly
secular constitution, inviting one and all to practice whatever
their preferred creed.
The charter developed between 1776 and 1791 was not only light
years ahead of its time. A religion's tolerance of others must be
judged where the religion in question is in the majority, wielding
political influence. It is relatively recent that countries with
a dominant Roman Catholic population countenance others. Most of
the world's peoples feel comfortable being ruled as much by their
spiritual, as by their political masters. Indeed, often the two
are indistinguishable from one another.
Thus, preserving America's approach to matters religious is essential,
partly to "insure domestic tranquility," and partly because
the rest of the world still cannot deal with religious strife. Just
look at the Irish and the British, Serbs and Croats, India and Pakistan.
It therefore stands to reason that those who come to live here,
while entirely free to practice their faith, be encouraged to comprehend,
absorb, and adopt the American model - not the other way around.
Further, it stands to reason that preservation and maintenance of
the American model is dependant upon the health, strength, and free
exercise of the religions that created the framework within which
all others could flourish. It may be politically correct, but nonetheless
ludicrous to presume that religious freedom would be unaffected
if the American brand of Protestantism would no longer set the tone
in this land.
And that brings us to the second truth: the implied contract for
newcomers. The terms used to be that Americans share all the land
has to offer, and immigrants set about becoming American with all
We have even forbidden ourselves to ask: if a person prefers to
live by the customs of Mexico, Kashmir, Arabia or China, why not
stay there? Instead, we are terrified that our ways may offend newcomers
who do things differently. Have we gone stark raving mad?
We have turned our back on reality to the point where rational
argument has been all but replaced by the emptiest of demagoguery.
Is there really a sane person who believes that an Islamic, or Buddhist,
or Sikh majority in the land would continue to abide by the U.S.
Constitution - a document that contravenes everything their religions
True, the Amish are committed to preserving their ways. But have
they ever asked that America change an iota for their sake? The
Mormons seek converts. But they never demanded that Americans alter
their behavior in the slightest to accommodate Mormon preferences.
Which brings us to the mounting interference with Christian practices
from Jewish sources. I submit that it is unseemly, in poor taste,
possibly downright arrogant for any member of the Jewish community
to tell American Christians where they can pray, mention God, or
exhibit a Jewish family in the form of a Nativity scene. Here is
In 1787, Americans agreed to the Jewish request of no religious
test for any office; they provided safe haven from the beginning,
through the Russian pogroms, Hitler's final solution and Stalin's
rabid persecution; they died liberating death camps; they single-handedly
maintain the state of Israel; they set up a Menorah in front of
the White House. Let no one presume to judge where these same American
Christians may erect a Christmas tree.